11 solar trash compactors to be installed around campus

Ethan Subra

Standing as a colorful monolith in front of Curtiss Hall, the lone testing unit for the BigBelly solar trash compactor sits on campus. It will soon be joined by 11 newer, more advanced models spread throughout campus and ISU landmarks.

The solar trash compactor is essentially a trash can that can hold five times as much trash as the standard 25-gallon trash can by compacting the trash using solar energy. This will benefit Iowa State financially, environmentally and in the human resources department.

“This is an instance where we can still do very important things without spending a lot of money,” said Merry Rankin, director of sustainability. “You can do great things without spending millions of dollars on a big project.”

While the initial purchase of a solar trash compactor costs about $4,200, the turnaround to financial gain is within one to two years, Rankin said.

Because the compactor can hold five times as much garbage, waste personnel don’t have to take time and resources to take out the garbage every day. In fact, the compactors reduce the cost of garbage pickup by 90 percent. 

Instead, the new trash compactors, once full, will send a wireless signal to waste facilities telling them to empty it. Because trips to pick up garbage will decrease from once a day to once a week, emissions from garbage trucks are also decreased by 80 percent.

By the end of next week, locations such as Central Campus, Parks Library, College of Veterinary Medicine and the transit facility in the Hilton Coliseum parking lot will have the solar trash compactors because they are in “high trash areas.”

These are areas where trash cans have to be checked multiple times a day. Not every trash can is able to be replaced because of the time it would take to turn a profit. 

Funding for the new compactors comes directly from the Facilities Planning and Management budget.